Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Mover and Shaker Kelly Sasuga
If you want to experience premium Spanish cuisine in Manhattan, there is only one place to go and that is Solera. Solera Restaurant and Tapas bar has been dominating Spanish cuisine in Manhattan for the last twenty-one years. Housed in a comfortable midtown brownstone, Solera occupies two floors at 216 East 53rd Street, with a capacity for 115 people. Each dining room evokes a warm, intimate feeling and reflects the colors and images of Spain. Solera restaurant offers contemporary interpretations of regional Spanish cuisine that will delight you. The Wine Selection is exclusively Spanish, offering New York's most extensive collection of Spain's D.O.'s, as well as, a fine selection of Sherries and Gran Solera Brandies de Jerez. Do tell Rufino that Peachy sent you! He is famous for bringing the paella pan to New York, among his many accomplishments. Solera was highly recommended by Whom You Know:
Rufino Lopez is a Mover and Shaker:
Since her first debut as a Whom You Know Mover and Shaker, Fresh Origins’ Research & Development Chef, Kelly Sasuga has been cooking up a storm in the Fresh Origins test kitchen, at food shows and events, competing in hot food competitions, and winning highly regarded medals along the way.
Kelly represented the San Diego Culinary Institute as a member of their Competition Team in one of the toughest, most prestigious culinary competitions in the United States. The American Culinary Federation’s Las Vegas Culinary Challenge took place at the Las Vegas Catersource Trade Show in March, 2013. It brought together some of the nation’s most talented chefs to compete in a variety of cooking categories; awarding medals and certifications.
Kelly competed and won her K1-Duck category impressing the judges with her Asian style, Miso-Glazed Duck Breast, Chinese Hand-pulled Noodle Stir Fry with Veggies, Smoked Duck & Veggie Egg Roll, Kumquat-Chili Gastrique, and Fresh Origins Micro Shiso. She received the ACF-Silver medal and accumulated the highest score in her category! The judges were astonished to see someone hand-pulling noodles during a hot food competition, where she only had 1 hour to cook everything from scratch. It was risky and brave, and took a lot of skill. She was awarded a knife kit and a $1,000 cash prize, which is going toward her savings for her first home.
Her second competition took place at Le Cordon Bleu in Seattle, where Kelly took on the difficult task of competing in not one, but two categories, in one morning! She once again made her Hand-Pulled Noodles & Duck dish, which resulted in a win of a very prized ACF Gold Medal! Her second dish was Hawaiin style, composed of a Miso Glazed Sea Bass, Hibiscus-Ginger-Chili Reduction, (made from Fresh Origins Hibiscus Leaves & Flowers), Coconut-Shitake Risotto, Sautéed Sea Beans (from Fresh Origins) and Red & Yellow Bell Peppers, Pineapple-Mint Buerre Blanc, and a Tempura Hibiscus Leaf (from Fresh Origins). Kelly received a silver medal for this dish after a very stressful, yet successful morning.
Months prior to the competitions, Kelly spent many hours practicing 2-3 times a week at the San Diego Culinary Institute, her alma mater. On top of that, she daily committed extra time for two months, perfecting the hand-pulled noodle technique at home.
San Diego Culinary Institute sponsors the competition team, and supplies the members with everything they need to practice and compete along with great coaches who help them to succeed. The coaches are graduates of the school and previous team members. Kelly felt that it was a huge honor and a wonderful opportunity to be a member of such a successful team. Over the teams’ 5 year reign, the team members have won medals in every competition, earning Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals in over 80% of all categories. This is a performance unequaled by any school or competition team in the country. Kelly loved the rush of competing, it was exciting and addicting, and in the end, all of her hard work paid off. She hopes to coach the team next year.
Kelly also caters small events with her former Culinary School classmates, such as holiday parties, birthday parties, fundraisers, and weddings. And of course, she enjoys cooking for her family events.
At Fresh Origins, Kelly continues to develop food and drink recipes using Microgreens, Edible Flowers, and Herb & Flower Crystals. Her recipes have been published and will continue to be published online at Great Taste Magazine as well as on Fresh Origins’ website and social media. She has been sharing samples of her food at trade shows where Fresh Origins exhibits. Attendees have had very positive reactions and are drawn to their booth. It also helps people to understand how to use Fresh Origins’ products. Her creative tastings show the versatility of Microgreens and Edible Flowers.
Kelly also continues to photograph her creations as well as food by other San Diego Chefs that use Fresh Origins’ products. Kelly and her Father, David Sasuga, owner of Fresh Origins, were recently featured in an article in the San Diego Union Tribune, where Kelly’s Duck Taco dish was pictured. She has been working with David, on new product development. They have a large list of new, exciting and unique products that they will be are rolling out soon. The new products keep Kelly very busy experimenting and figuring out how they are best used. She enjoys the opportunity and challenge! We could not be more thrilled to present Kelly Sasuga as our first Culinary Queen. Peachy Deegan interviewed Kelly for Whom You Know.
Peachy Deegan: What were the qualifications to be part of the San Diego Culinary Institute Competition Team?
We had team try outs that consisted of 3 timed components, that were judged by the Team Coaches, the Team Manager/Chef Instructor, and the school’s Senior Executive Chef/Program Director. There was a mystery basket, where we had to make 2 identical dishes composed of only the provided ingredients. This is something you see on a cooking show, like Chopped. Our try outs were actually recorded. We had to create the menu on the spot, which had to include a protein, vegetable, starch and sauce. We had to fabricate a chicken in under 5 minutes; the end result had to be 10 pieces. We also had a knife skills test, where we had to do classical knife cuts such as julienne, bruinoise, batonnet, small dice, etc.
Besides having to prove our culinary skills, other important aspects that they looked for were: positive attitude, being a team player, being able to work well with others, being able to create your own dishes, hard working, being respectful and appreciative of authority (team coaches & manager), being able to take criticism well, and being able to perform under high pressure and stress.
What was the rest of your team like?
Everyone was very friendly and hard working. We didn’t socialize much during practice. We stayed very focused, but would hang out sometimes after. We all went out after the competition in Vegas and had a blast. Although we were a team, we competed as individuals, but would help each other set up and clean up, before and after the competitions.
Is this a spectator sport and is it televised?
The competitions are watched by attendees of the trade shows and several judges. It is not televised.
What other schools or groups participate in these competitions against you and what
are they like to compete against?
There were several other culinary students, culinary instructors, and restaurant chefs that competed.
How are you able to cook so efficiently during a competition?
Lots of practice! I still was very nervous and scared. I just focused on what I had to do. I stuck to my timelines for cooking and it worked out. It’s vital to make everything in the right order that will result in all the food being hot at the end, and finishing within the time limit.
Of all of your dishes what four are you proudest of and why?
Definitely my Miso Glazed Duck dish with Chinese Hand Pulled Noodles, Veggie Stir Fry, and Smoked Duck Eggroll, & Fresh Origins’ Micro Shiso. The flavors were amazing and many hours of practice and a lot of patience went into perfecting it, especially teaching myself the technique of hand pulling noodles. I’m very proud of this dish, and it was my gold medal winner.
Another would be my Chocolate Ganache Pops, in which I use Fresh Origins’ Herb Crystals Mint to coat the ganache. It’s simple, sweet and makes a nice presentation. The Crystals add a fresh minty flavor and texture which pairs great with the smooth and creamy chocolate.
A third would be my other competition dish, Miso Glazed Sea Bass with Fresh Origins’ Hibiscus Leaves. I made a sauce with the leaves that was sour, sweet and spicy and was a bright, beautiful red color. I designed it as a tropical style dish because I love Island style food and life in general, especially Hawaiian. It set up very nicely on the plate with contrasting colors of red, yellow, pink, white, and green. I also tempura’d the Hibiscus Leaves for a garnish, an added crunch, and height.
Another one of my favorites is a Citrus Ceviche with Flower Crystals Fennel. It’s very simple and easy to make, but tastes great. It’s very colorful and has a super fresh taste. The Fennel Crystals add a sweet, licorice flavor that pairs wonderfully with the seafood. It also adds a perfect crunchiness.
How do you make each of these four dishes?
It would take me days to write it all out! The chocolate ganache pops and ceviche recipe is on our website, Freshorigins.com. The others should be up soon.
How do you manage to stay so fit despite all the culinary endeavors you are involved in?
It’s definitely not easy, I stay very active, go to the gym regularly and only eat small tastings/portions of the food I make. Also, when you are making the same dish every day, you get sick of eating it.
What culinary creations do you like to indulge in for relaxation that are not stressful?
I like to make gumbo and jambalaya. And I love to eat it! My Mom’s and boyfriend’s family is from Louisiana and we have a ton of relatives that still live there. It’s great to visit and eat all the wonderful Cajun food. We really can’t get anything that’s authentic out here, unless we make it ourselves.
Do you think there will ever be a museum for culinary art?
That is an interesting idea. Food is definitely Art. The challenge is that it doesn’t last. Plated food obviously changes and disintegrates quickly. It would have to be replicas of beautifully plated food that is made out of plastic. Trouble is that would look very fake. It would be wonderful if we could make fake food really look real.
What are the most creative ways you've seen others use Fresh Origins?
We always love to see how Chefs use our products, but especially when they use it as an ingredient and not just a garnish. I recently did a photo shoot with a Chef in San Diego, Byron Wilson and he combined our Microgreens with a creamy cheese and used that as a filling for a roulade. He also used them in a puree. It’s also great when Chefs use a specific Microgreen for its flavor that works well and makes sense within the dish. For example, it could be something simple like topping a beet salad with Micro Beet’s Bull’s Blood. Or using a Tiny Veggie Carrot to top a carrot cake. We like to see Microgreens and Tiny Veggies used in desserts as well as savory dishes. Also, there is a company, Madison Chocolatier’s West using our Crystals inside their chocolates and on their chocolate covered strawberries.
How is Fresh Origins as a brand able to be so constantly imaginative month after
month and how much planning goes into a new product?
We are constantly experimenting with new varieties and running trials. A ton of research first goes into finding new products. Some are requests from Chefs. If they want something, we will try to grow it for them.
Where would you like to teach cooking someday?
Anywhere local, maybe a cooking store, do demos at events, or do an “in home” teaching session.
What is the most recent adventurous activity you've embarked on?
I recently got certified for scuba diving. I’ve wanted to do it for 10 years now. My boyfriend has been diving his whole life and got me into it; finally! I’ve always been a swimmer, so I feel natural in the water. It is such an amazing and different world under the water. I’ve only done dives in California and Mexico so far, but we’re planning to travel and dive in the Caribbean and the South Pacific. I have also been training for the Mission Bay Sprint Triathlon, which will be in October!
How's your golf game and where do you like to golf?
I’m fairly new at it, but I do pretty well. I have a lot of family and friends that have taught me a lot. I’ve been playing for about a year now and I love it. I can hold my own in a game. Most golf courses are beautiful. My favorite one so far is on Coronado Island, right on the water. We’re planning on building a small putting green and driving range in our new back yard!
What are your favorite wines right now and what do you like about them?
My two favorite are Riesling and Syrah/Shiraz I love them because are both very fruit forward wines and are relatively sweet. Whether I drink white or red, usually depends on the weather, what time it is, and what I’m eating. Typically I like whites better in the summer, and reds in the winter.
What is your top 5 favorite restaurants in Manhattan?
Hurricane Club, Gotham Bar and Grill, Veritas, Estela, and Casa de Isaaco.
What should our readers know about San Diego and what are the highlights of it across the board?
Living in San Diego is like being on vacation, whenever you’re not working. There is always something to do. There is, of course the beautiful beaches and bays, where you can swim, surf, relax, jet ski, sail, kayak, camp, fish, etc. We go sailing quite a bit. We are also not far from the mountains, where you can go skiing and sledding. The desert is also near-by, where you can camp
and ride off-road vehicles. We also have very country areas that are full of farms and horses. If you really wanted to, you could surf, snowboard, and ride in the desert all in one day!
Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like the Fashion columns. I used to want to be a Fashion Designer, so it’s interesting to me to see what the latest trends are. You don’t get to see much of it in San Diego.
How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?